Friday, 19 March 2010
Richard Sterne  (Getty Images)
Richard Sterne (Getty Images)

Richard Sterne was the clubhouse leader early on the first afternoon of the Africa Open in East London after ending round one with an impressive seven under par 66.

The South African, who fired a course-record 61 during last year's competition, was error free through his 18 holes.

Sterne began steadily with just one birdie in his first six holes, before picking up remarkably around the turn with six shots gained in his next eight.

His closest challenge was coming from fellow countrymen Keith Horne and Tjaart van der Walt, both completing their day's work with 67s, while French pair Jean-Baptiste Gonnet and Michael Lorenzo-Vera, along with Englishman Sam Hutsby, were amongst eight players on five under.

Northern Irishman Darren Clarke, who had an afternoon tee-off, was on level par through five holes and will be hoping for a strong start to a competition he finished runner-up in last year.

But he will have to work hard to catch the leader, who admitted afterwards that he could have gone even better.

Sterne, who started his round on the ninth hole - with the tenth, more often used as an alternate starting point, being adjudged too far to walk from the clubhouse - said: "Today I got off to a slow start, but I made some good putts in the beginning, especially for pars on 13 and 14.

"That kept my round going and fortunately it made my coming in on quite a tough stretch easier. That's the key I think, I rolled in some long putts there and that kind of helped.

"I had it going, seven under with four to go. But five and six aren't my favourite holes, so I played them conservatively and made pars. I didn't play good wedge shots there at all, but I'm still happy with seven under."

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